Everything that could go wrong in Murang'a County has done so; which way ahead?

Thursday December 26 2013

Residents of Maragua town hold a demonstration

Residents of Maragua town hold a demonstration in the area on August 14, 2013, following a rise in insecurity. A man was killed by a three-man gang in the town and a woman kidnapped during the incident the previous night. PHOTO: Samuel Karanja / NATION.  

According to Murphy’s Law “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

In Murang’a County, everything that can go wrong has happened. Crime, social disorder, alcohol and drug abuse as well as chronic unemployment are at an all-time high. What went wrong?

Murang’a is a victim of historical omissions, geography, breakdown of the family unit and a failure by the middle class and elite who hail from the area.

Regarding history, Murang’a seems to have been bypassed by pioneer missionaries and as a result, no early educational facilities were set up.

Therefore, as Kenya approached Independence, there was no specific focus on education as a means of helping the community to rise from poverty.

Instead, the popular thing to do then was to migrate to Nairobi and engage in business.

On geography, the extreme hilly terrain has over the years made it difficult to set up infrastructure that would facilitate trade and investment. As a result, farmers in Murang’a have had limited access to markets outside the area for their produce.

Although the growing of cash crops such as tea and coffee as well as dairy farming were at one time profitable enterprises, low prices and mismanagement of these sub-sectors in the 1980s and 1990s led to high levels of poverty.

The problem was compounded by massive subdivision of land to tiny holdings that are not viable. This, coupled with a steady increase in population, led to a breakdown of the family unit.

Poor parenting, primarily caused by the absence of fathers in most homes, has led to the disillusionment of an entire generation.

The result has been early pregnancies, prostitution, as well as alcohol and drug abuse.

It is now normal to see men in their 30s and 40s who are drunk throughout the day. They consume illicit brews that make them impotent and generally harm their health.

The poverty, substance abuse and idleness have made Murang’a the natural breeding ground for criminals and other social misfits, making the county one of the most violent in Kenya.

In some neighbourhoods, criminals have turned against their own people, with kidnapping of any forward-looking individual for ransom being in vogue.

In several kidnapping incidents, the victims have been murdered in the most gruesome ways. Some have been beheaded and their heads never recovered.

In 2012, the county was placed at number 40 out of 47 in KCPE examination performance nationally. The county had done worse than many marginalised parts of the country.

I did a quick, random check of the results in a few primary schools an